Not going away Smoke - filled casinos are a risk to customers and above all, employees. - Saturday 12th of March 2005

Smoking bans in public places and workplaces are good public policy.

They benefit the majority of people who don't smoke and shouldn't have to endure the watery eyes, stinking clothes, burning lungs and compromised cardiovascular system induced by any room full of smoke.

The process of eliminating smoking in indoor public places has been gradual but has not gone far enough.

Cities first took the ban by the horns by going after restaurants. Then states began weighing in as secondhand smoke became an irrefutable public health issue.

Even Ireland, where smoking and a pint are sacrosanct, smoking was banned in pubs last year because it was deemed a major health threat to employees, who don't have the option of not coming to work.

It was no left???wing, willy???nilly decision. The ban was based on sound science: Health studies showed bar workers suffered more heart and respiratory problems and lived shorter lives than the population at large. End of discussion, law passed.

And surprise, smokers didn't desert their watering holes. And nonsmokers started coming back.

Across this country, and in Iowa, bars are holdouts for smokers. So are casinos. Both should be put on notice.

The only smoke???free casino in the U.S. is in Taos, N.M. Given the known health problems, that's unconscionable.

New Jersey and Colorado legislators are debating a ban on smoking in casinos. They too are worried about employees and non smoking guests.

The casino industry is virulently opposed, claiming it would lose money. Owners fret that smokers who stop gambling to go outside and smoke might use the respite to decide they've lost enough and should call it a day. That's a risk gamblers and casinos should expect to take.

But nonsmoking gamblers should not have to risk their health to gamble. And above all, casino employees should not have to risk their lives to earn a living. It's a moral and occupational health issue that is not going away.

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